A Black voter during a town-hall event on Tuesday pressed President Donald Trump on his “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan, describing it as “tone-deaf.”
Carl Day, a pastor who leads a group of churches called Culture Changing Christians, challenged Trump at the event hosted by ABC News in Philadelphia.
“When has America been great for African Americans in the ghetto of America?” Day said. “Are you aware of how tone-deaf that comes off to the African American community?”
Trump, whom critics have accused of running an openly racist reelection campaign, responded that he had “tremendous” support from Black Americans.
He claimed that before the coronavirus pandemic devastated the economy, Black Americans were enjoying historic levels of prosperity under his administration.
“That was probably the highest point — homeownership for the Black community. Homeownership, lower crime, the best jobs they’ve ever had, highest income, the best employment numbers they’ve ever had,” Trump said.
“If you go back and you want to look over many years, you could just go back six or seven months from now, that was the best single moment in the history of the African American people in this country.”
The president has consistently exaggerated the positive impact of his policies on Black Americans during his four years in office.
An Associated Press fact-check in June found that African American unemployment dropped to a historic low of 5.4% last August but that this was a continuation of a trend that began during the Obama administration.
On other economic measures, such as income inequality, the AP found that Black Americans’ situation had not improved.
Trump has portrayed the anti-racism protests that swept the US after the death of George Floyd in May as the work of left-wing extremists fomenting anarchy.
He has also stirred fears that fair-housing regulations will lead to “low-income” households invading mostly white suburbs.
In his new White House exposé, “Rage,” Bob Woodward wrote that when he asked Trump whether he had a responsibility to “understand the anger and the pain” of Black Americans, the president responded with incredulity, telling Woodward, “You really drank the Kool-Aid, didn’t you?”
Day said on Tuesday that Black Americans’ situation had not significantly improved under several presidential administrations.
“We need to see when was that great, because that pushes us back to a time in which we cannot identify with such greatness,” he said.
“And I mean, you’ve said everything else about choking and everything else, but you have yet to address and acknowledge that there’s been a race problem in America,” Day continued, alluding to Trump’s comments on policing tactics after Floyd’s death.
Trump replied: “Well, I hope there’s not a race problem. I can tell you there’s none with me, because I have great respect for all races, for everybody. This country is great because of it.”
Trump repeated his claims about his administration’s economic record and said his policies had been on track to reduce income inequality before the pandemic.